Thursday, November 19, 2009

In New Hampshire: 'A real win for the principle of fair and open competition '

Bid process marked by PLA stopped:
MANCHESTER -- Dick Anagnost went to bed Thursday night believing the nine years he invested in bringing a new Job Corps Center to the city was coming close to fruition.

He woke up yesterday not so sure.

That's when he learned the U.S. Department of Labor canceled the bid process for the 160,000-square-foot center planned off Dunbarton Road. The estimated cost of the project is $35 million.

"It'll be a terrible blow if this thing goes away," said Anagnost, chairman of the New Hampshire Job Corps Task Force.

Anagnost said he spent most of yesterday trying to find out when or if the bid process would restart. He also said he called on the help of the state's four legislators in Washington, D.C.

The Labor Department's decision came a day short of one month after North Branch Construction of Concord filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office. North Branch decried the Labor Department's requirement for a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) that the contractor contends mandates following union rules and paying into union benefit funds as a condition for bidding on the project.

The Associated Builders and Contractors, which represents 25,000 merit shop construction and construction-related firms that employ more than 2 million people, is supporting North Branch in its legal battle.

"This is a real win for the principle of fair and open competition in government procurement," said North Branch attorney Maurice Baskin of Venable LLC. "It is no coincidence that the Department of Labor canceled its unlawful PLA mandate the day before the agency was required to file a response to our bid protest. We demonstrated that there was no justification for imposing a PLA on this project and that the PLA mandate violated the Competition in Contracting Act and other long-standing federal procurement requirements."

North Branch filed the protest contending that most contractors in the state are non-union and the PLA would prevent them from working on the project.

"We are not anti-union," Ken Holmes, president of North Branch Construction in Concord, said in a statement at the time the protest was filed. "We work with union and non-union contractors, but the preponderance of contractors in New Hampshire are non-union. This knocks all of them out of the ball game.
The Beacon Hill Institute has published several extensive studies undermining the claims that Project Labor Agreements save taxpayers money. The latest can be found here.

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